Is it a baby T-Rex or a Nanotyrannus? When the name is a bluff

Is it a baby T-Rex or a Nanotyrannus?  When the name is a bluff

London/New YorkWhen fossil hunters uncovered dinosaur remains from the hills of eastern Montana five years ago, they knew those bones contained several key characteristics of a living creature. Tyrannosaurus rex: A pair of giant legs for walking, a pair of small arms for cutting down prey, and a long tail extending back. But unlike A T-Rex This adult dinosaur was about the size of a city bus, and was about the size of a pickup truck.

The creature that is for sale At the London exhibition For 20 million dollars (more than 18 million euros), the question that has become on the minds of paleontologists arises: Is it… T-Rex that died before reaching puberty or represent a different but related species known as Nano tyrant? This dispute has involved a mountain of scientific research and decades of debate, and along the way it has polarized paleontologists.

Now that dinosaur fossils are fetching increasingly high prices at auctions, the dispute, once a secret and a secret, has spread through auction houses and galleries, where some see the name dinosaurs. T-Rex As a value brand it can command higher prices more easily. “Ultimately, it's about accuracy in classifying and classifying a very specific type of dinosaur – explains Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh – but as it relates to organisms, T-Rex“The debate is always more fierce because we're talking about the King of the Dinosaurs.” of the battle between… T-Rex Young and Nano tyrant Even memes appeared on the Internet: “I won't believe in him Nano tyrant Until he comes to my door and eats me,” a paleontology student named TheDinoBuff joked to X.

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The most profitable brand

The gallery selling the specimen discovered in Montana, which they named Chomper, faced the dilemma of labeling it as T-Rex Young or as Nano tyrant? Or will he accept the ambiguity of the scientific controversy that has not yet been resolved? Finally, London gallery David Aron described him as “a rare youthful skeleton Tyrannosaurus rex” from the Cretaceous period, 66-68 million years ago. It does so by citing a prestigious 2020 paper, led by Holly N. Woodward, in which growth rings from bone samples from two specimens similar in size to Chomper are analyzed, to which they claim they were Juveniles in the developmental stage. Salomon Aron, director of the exhibition, said that paleontologists advised him to classify the skeleton as T-Rex Young and ruled out that any label would be more profitable than the other. “I don't think it would have any impact on the price, because in any case this is a wonderfully complete specimen, perfectly preserved and extremely rare.”

But Peter Larsson, a paleontologist known for his involvement in excavating both T-Rex Most famously (Sue and Stan), he mentioned that he thought Chomper was one of them Nano tyrant. The animal played a starring role in the documentary Dinosaur hunters On the Discovery Channel in 2020, Larson pointed to the size of the hand bones and the apparent fusion of the nasal bones as evidence that he was not… T-Rex Young: “You have a group of scholars who say it's the same T-Rex And others say it is one Nano tyrant“They will choose the one who makes the most money.”

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Research meets the market

The origin of the controversy among paleontologists dates back to 1942, when an expedition from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History discovered a 56-centimeter-long dinosaur skull in Montana. At first they identified it as one Gorgosaurusbut in the 1960s, a new analysis argued that it belonged to A T-Rex childish. However, since there were clear differences between them (the smaller skull had a thinner snout and finer, softer teeth), at the end of the 1980s, a new investigation by paleontologist Robert T. Packer that this species was actually another species, called A. Nano tyrant. A decade later, paleontologist Thomas Carr, who had studied the matter for twenty years, determined that the differences were precisely due to immaturity, due to the growth of the fossils. T-Rex.

For two decades, new discoveries have been enlivening the debate, such as a specimen called Jane, measuring 6.5 meters long, and another skeleton on display in Rockfort (Illinois). In October, Nick Longreach, a paleontologist at the University of Bath, responded to Woodward's 2020 research. “It became a question of religion, a way of indicating group membership,” Longreach said of the sentiments raised by the debate.

But science depends on evidence, and many paleontologists believe that more evidence is needed to truly end the dispute. Which is why the growing market for dinosaur fossils at auctions and art galleries is alarming: academic paleontologists believe that rising dinosaur prices (since Stan sold for $27 million in 2020) have opened up a crisis in his field because important specimens could end up out of reach. Hand. From researchers. “We need more samples to solve the puzzle – says Royal Ontario Museum paleontologist David Evans – and these are exactly the kind of samples scientists need.” Aaron, from the London gallery, hopes Chomper will end up in a museum where scientists can study him, but there are no guarantees.

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